In a moment reminiscent of Chris Moneymaker’s historic victory 14 years ago, recreational player Marti Rocca de Torres turned an online qualifier into a million-dollar payday at the biannual World Series of Poker Europe (WSOP-E) Main Event.
A former economics teacher who recently left his profession to give poker a serious go, the Spaniard earned his entry into the €10,350 buy-in WSOP-E Main Event through a €220 satellite qualifier on 888Poker.es.
And after six grueling days against world-class competition – including a final table stacked with top-tier talent – Rocca de Torres held every last chip in play to claim his first WSOP gold bracelet, along with €1,115,207 in first-place prize money.
Rocca de Torres travelled from Spain to King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, where he found himself facing a 529-player field filled out by many of the best poker players on the planet. Former WSOP bracelet winners like Kristen Bicknell, Niall Farrell, Mike Leah, and Anthony Zinno all made deep runs in the event, as did Kevin MacPhee – winner of the last WSOP-E Main Event in 2015.
By the end of Day 4, the field had been whittled down to just 12 survivors, with superstar pro Maria Ho leading the chip counts in search of her first bracelet win. Farrell lurked with a second-place chip stack, while Rocca de Torres found himself in third on the leaderboard entering the pivotal fifth day of play. MacPhee sat in 11th chip position, but still harbored dreams of winning Europe’s most prestigious tournament in two consecutive outings.
Day 5 shed six players from the field, setting up a climactic Day 6 with Ho and Rocca de Torres as dual leaders. Ho held 7,830,000 chips to 7,260,000 for Rocca de Torres, and the pair held well over 50 percent of the chips in play.
But despite the similarity in stack size, Ho held a significant edge in terms of experience, with 93 previous cashes to her credit for over $ 2.1 million in career earnings. Conversely, Rocca de Torres had amassed just 10 tournament cashes for $ 30,000 and change entering the final day.
In the early hours of Day 6, Ho attempted to employ the same aggressive style that had earned her the chip lead, but she never did get anything going. After doubling up Farrell in a sizable pot, Ho was left as the final table’s short stack.
That stack was pushed into the middle a short time later, and after Rocca de Torres called, Farrell shoved his stack forward as well. The Spaniard snap-called and tabled his pocket aces, which crushed Farrell’s pocket kings and left Ho’s ace-jack in a terrible spot.
A clean runout sent a mountain of chips over to Rocca de Torres, who held 17.1 million chips with only 26.3 million on the table.
It appeared for all the world that Rocca de Torres had the bracelet in hand, but in a surreal scene, he wound up losing several all-in confrontations in succession – holding the best hand preflop each time. With the cards seemingly unwilling to cooperate, four-handed play lasted for over six hours, during which time Rocca de Torres surrendered what once appeared to be an insurmountable chip lead.
But rather than let the bad beats fluster him, Rocca de Torres buckled down and played his game to perfection, rebuilding his stack before finally finishing off Gianluca Speranza of Italy in an epic heads-up duel.
As he told assembled media members from PokerNews and WSOP.com after the final card fell, Rocca de Torres rode the roller coaster along with the thousands of fans viewing the live stream from home:
“At this point I thought I’m going to win for sure because I’m in the perfect situation with a massive stack.
For a moment, I thought that it’s done. And for a moment, it looked like it’s impossible.
But finally, step-by-step, I won it.
I don’t know, I am more nervous now than before when I was playing. But for sure I am very happy and it is a dream come true, I don’t know what to say.”
WSOP-Europe Main Event Final Table Results
PLACE PLAYER (NATION) PRIZE
1st Marti Roca de Torres (Spain) €1,115,207
2nd Gianluca Speranza (Italy) €689,246
3rd Mathijs Jonkers (Netherlands) €476,585
4th Robert Bickley (United Kingdom) €335,089
5th Niall Farrell (United Kingdom) €239,639
6th Maria Ho (United States) €174,365
7th Jack Salter (United Kingdom) €129,121
8th Luis Rodriguez (Spain) €97,344